The RVs are rented and the grills are seasoned, but in the week before the Super Bowl thousands of would-be New Orleans Saints tailgaters are experiencing a culture clash with NFL and local rules on pre-game celebrations, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Anyone planning a trip to Miami this week has realized that tailgating, at least as many “Who Dats” know it, will be largely impossible in the parking lot or outside Sun Life Stadium, the site of Super Bowl XLIV next Sunday. Saints fans accustomed to the sprawling parties outside the Superdome have spent the past week scrambling for alternatives.
“We’re New Orleans people, bro. They want us to come down there like we’re doing church choir or something,” said James Simmons of Mandeville, who’s having trouble even finding a place to park the RV he’ll drive to South Florida this week.
According to NFL rules, tailgating that involves barbecuing or large gatherings is prohibited in the stadium parking lot before the Super Bowl. And the nearby options are slim, with local police saying they will strictly enforce open container laws and unauthorized parking in private lots.
Unlike New Orleans, where the Superdome is an easy walk to downtown bars and the French Quarter, Miami is much more spread out. Most beach hot-spots in Miami and Fort Lauderdale are at least a 45-minute drive from the stadium, and police there have said that alcohol consumption or large parties on the beach are prohibited.
“We’re asking people to be cognizant that our rules are a little different from New Orleans,” said Detective Juan Sanchez, a spokesman for the Miami Beach Police Department. “Anything that’s not following our rules and regulations, we will shut down.”
Some fans have mentioned having beach parties or other gatherings before the game, complete with large speakers, but Sanchez said any such party would require a permit weeks in advance. Most of South Beach, too, will be inundated with official NFL pre-parties and at least six music stages.
The terrain near Sun Life Stadium is just as complicated.
No open flames are allowed in the parking lot for the Super Bowl, and fans cannot take up more than one parking spot with a party. That means tents or RV parties are out, even though grilling and larger tailgates are allowed at the stadium for regular season Miami Dolphins games.
Alcohol and food are allowed in the parking lot, said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, but fans cannot block traffic.
“Fans understand and respect that this isn’t week seven,” McCarthy said, referring to the regular football season.
The stadium is in the middle of a residential area, with a Wal-Mart and a few strip shopping centers nearby.
A manager at the local Wal-Mart store said tailgating would not be allowed in the store’s lot because of security concerns near the stadium. And a spokesman for the Miami Gardens Police Department, which has jurisdiction of the area adjacent to the stadium, said campers, tents, loud music and grilling would not be allowed on city streets or in any of the private business parking lots near the stadium. The spokesman, Capt. Ralph Suarez, also pointed out that city ordinances bar drinking in public areas, including in several of the county parks near the stadium.
Suarez said it’s not that the department is uptight, “but it’s just a different environment, I guess.”
The complications have moved most fans to improvise.
Simmons, who had planned to grill burgers and hot dogs for “22 or 2,200” Who Dats, said one of his tailgating partners has already returned the RV he was going to rent. But he’s not giving in.
“Of course nothing’s going to stop us from going,” Simmons said. “We’re gonna find a way to make some noise somewhere. We just can’t do it right there at the stadium so we can get some crazy looks from the Colts fans.”
Kennie Vice of Houma has called at least 10 different state parks, marinas and RV parks — even the parking director of Miami — but has had little luck finding a staging area. If worse comes to worst, he says he’ll just party with as many fans as possible in their RV park near Fort Lauderdale.
“I’m sure if there’s a will there’s a way. You know how Saints fans are,” he said. “But I’m kind of thinking I’m not driving all the way down there just to be in an RV park. I’d like to be somewhere else.”
Jay Foster, an attorney in Ocean Springs, Miss., was scrambling to organize a large tailgate party for several Saints fans but soon realized the hurdles. Realizing parking would be limited and restrooms a significant challenge, he decided to book a banquet room at the El Palacio Sports Hotel and Conference Center, about a mile from the stadium.
Foster and his friends planned a similar event before the NFC Championship game in 2007 against the Chicago Bears. The Saints have hired a local Florida brass band to play the usual favorites and lead a second-line in to the stadium.
He’s been trying to get friends and as many fans as possible to chip in for the costs, advertising it on a Facebook page and numerous Saints online forums.
“We just want to do this for everyday fans like me,” he said.